There are cars that, for one reason or another, carry with them a certain mystique that lives on long after the actual automobile has ceased to exist. One such example is the sectioned '50 Olds hardtop convertible dubbed "Polynesian." Neil Emory and Clayton Jensen, partners in Burbank, California's famed Valley Custom Shop (see this issue's Hall of Fame for more on this dynamic, customizing duo), built the original car in 1951-52. While customizing was underway, a ton of photos were taken to document the process, many being published in car buff magazines of the era (Hot Rod, September 1953, Rod & Custom, September 1953, and the 1954 Custom Cars Annual). Upon completion, the car was a real hit on the show circuit, but at some point in time (after a subsequent owner had "updated" it with fins) it was either destroyed, lost, or misplaced, who really knows for sure? (Note: if you do know the answer to this riddle, please contact CRM offices, they'd love to hear from you.) Anyway, with it apparently gone forever, it opened the door for one John Ballard of Anderson, Indiana, to clone the car.
The actual work took some five years, and when completed in 1990, John enjoyed it by both driving and displaying the car at shows for several years until an unfortunate incident destroyed the hood, windshield, and top cosmetics. While all of this was going on, Jack Walker of Belton, Missouri, had been trying to purchase the car to add to his fine collection of wonderful customs. And even though it had been severely damaged, he was willing to spend the time and money required to return it to show condition.
For those of you unfamiliar with the artwork performed on this fine vehicle, let's go through the major modifications made to the original, which relate directly to this accurately reproduced clone, as well. First and foremost, the body was sectioned 4 inches, a major feat in itself, and one that would stop most of us dead in our tracks (you'll also note that the car wasn't chopped, which is part of its charm and enduring popularity). Then the front wheelwells were reshaped, the grille area hanformed, and a '46 Olds bumper fit to serve as a grille/bumper combination. Air inlets were formed at the leading edge of the rear fenders, and a heavily modified '50 Olds rear bumper with an opening for the license plate, exhaust outlets, and built-in side marker lights installed. A pair of handformed skirts were also created to grace the rear wheelwells and, as with most customs of the day, the proper amount of chrome trim and access handles removed. Then, as a final touch, the frenched headlights and custom-made taillight lenses were accented with custom-crafted, perforated-metal trim rings, with matching inserts created for the quarter-panel scoops as well-just one example of Valley's incredible attention to design detail. With all metalworked to perfection, the body was painted in custom-mixed Orchid flame lacquer, then color sanded and rubbed to a high luster-the only way to get a great paint job 50 years ago. Custom boys of lesser means went the home-painted route with hot enamel jobs (yes, they would really heat the paint pot on top of the stove), or worse-how 'bout a driveway job via vacuum cleaner or even hand-pumped bug sprayer?
As you can see, every effort was made to faithfully reproduce the original body cosmetics, but when it came to the clone's drivetrain, liberties were taken. The '50 Olds was not believed to be up to the task of modern driving rigors and, as everyone in the hobby knows, bigger is better when it comes to engines, so an Olds 455 was substituted. Another alteration was the addition of a modern Cadillac subframe. This neat little trick updated the front suspension, brakes, and engine/transmission mounts, all in one slick package. Inside, the combination of rolled tan and white vinyl on the seats, door panels, and headliner, accented with maroon rugs nicely duplicated the '50s look.
As stated, when Jack got the car it had suffered a considerable amount of damage, but he thought it well worth the investment necessary to repair correctly, and we heartily agree. The "Polynesian II" is also a fitting addition to Jack's impressive collection of original and cloned customs, which includes the "Blue Danube" Buick clone; Harry Bradley's "La Jolla" Chevy; the Hirohata Merc clone; a Winfield Olds; the '32 Ford roadster pickup, "Eclipse"; and the Barris-built Seaton '55 Chevy. As you can see, Jack is no stranger to fine custom cars, and best of all, he loves to show them off. This means that we all get a chance to see them at Championship Auto Shows around the country. Thanks Jack, we needed that!
Modifications At A Glance
1950 Oldsmobile two-door hardtop
Sectioned 4 inches; nosed, decked, and shaved; reshaped grille area with a '46 Olds bumper/grille; '50 Olds rear bumper w/exhaust outlets side marker lights, and license plate recess; scooped quarter- panels w/perforated-metal inserts; radiused front wheelwells; handmade fender skirts; frenched headlights and handmade taillights set in perforated metal trim; bodywork by John Ballard; Orchid Flame paint by Chuck Miller.
'85 Olds 455-cid V-8; Edelbrock carb and aluminum manifold; chrome air cleaner and valve cover dress-up; Turbo 400 trans w/shift kit; Turbo mufflers; '85 Olds radiator.
'80s Cadillac subframe graft; '50 Olds rearend and suspension; Caddy front disc brakes and master cylinder; 15-inch steel wheels all around; 6.70x15 whitewalls front, 6.75 whitewalls rear.
Stock '50 Olds dash, instruments, and steering wheel; wiring by Jack Ballard; tan and white vinyl over '50 Olds seats w/maroon carpet by Bob Sipes, Raymore, MO.